Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Another Tack... Ready About!

As some of you may, or may not, know my "day job" is the most enjoyable one of being an illustrator.  I have done this for about 15 years now.  Before that the "day job" was a muralist until I muraled my way out of Cornwall, as my five kids were quite small I decided that something more home based was a good plan, found myself an agent and started illustrating.  Very soon it became necessary for my partner in crime to become the "house husband" as the illustration work grew.  I learned how to work with a graphics tablet using a great programme called Corel Painter.  So the illustration became created on a computer. 
I still painted when I could but not nearly enough.  Flash forward a few years and the youngest child flew the nest so I started really painting, quite fast and obsessively.  It was a distraction from that dreadful empty nest.  So then I had two sides, like a split personality, illustration and painting. 
Now for the exciting bit... Just recently, through a chance meeting over one of my paintings I have had the chance to do some illustration work that is much more like painting.  It might well develop into quite a big thing.  I have always earned my living, somehow, using my skills as an artist and I must say that there is, for me, a great pleasure in selling work!  I think in my head it allows me to work, it is such a nice way to live you see that I think I must feel guilty!!  Anyway as a result of going slightly off piste with both the illustration and the painting I seem to have found yet another personality that wants to get out.  I am planning a trip around all the little ports of Cornwall to make plen air paintings in a most illustrative style, so watch this space for paintings that are beside the sea, but not what I usually do.  I expect they will be a bit like the one below but with harbours and cottages like the ones above.  I will keep you posted as to how it all progresses.

Monday, 23 August 2010


I have a continuing interest in islands and while I don't often manage to explore them, there are enough within reasonable travel distance that I can view them when I want.

I was in Ferryland last week and wandering around the Colony of Avalon, an archaeological site there.  The colony was founded by George Calvert, later Lord Baltimore, in 1621. Most people have no idea that permanent European settlement in North America dates so far back, and that Newfoundland played such an important role. The Ferryland settlement was "forgotten", and its remains lay undisturbed for centuries.

Map of Ferryland, 1693.
From D.W. Prowse, A History of Newfoundland from the English, Colonial, and Foreign Records, 2nd edition (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1896) 111. Caption beneath image reads, "Ferryland, showing Baltimore's House. From Fitzburgh's map, 1693." Image modified by Duleepa Wijayawardhana, 1999. 
I stopped to look at the islands just offshore. I don't know if these islands have names or not.  Nothing seems to be listed for them that I can find.  This map from 1693 of 'Ferreyland' indicates some of the smaller islands just offshore.

However, the weather was grey and warm and the sea and sky looked similar in value. The Atlantic ocean was so calm, such a rarity!  The islands are not large enough to sustain human or animal life aside from a few sea birds perhaps.  Some are no more than rocks above the sea line, others had a lovely green/yellow coloration from the vegetation on them.

I took some photos as rain was imminent and painted a view of the islands in oils on a 6 x 12" gallery canvas.  I quite liked these islands and hope to paint and draw more of them, hopefully on a better day weatherwise.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Winter pool

Winter Pools, detail, Vivien Blackburn

This is a small mixed media piece, 10 x 8 inches of a winter pool on a still blue skied day. Above and below are close ups.

It was done on Somerset paper, in a mix of watercolour, coloured pencil, gouache and ink. I like the variety of marks possible with mixed media - the transparencey and looseness of watercolour, the splattering with it; the hazing of coloured pencil over watercolour washes to create layers of colour that shine through each other, the calligraphic marks of pen - biro in this case - and the covering power of touches of gouache. The paper is quite creamy and I wanted some pure clear white in the reflection, so used the gouache to lighten it where necessary.

Back to work as I've got to produce another 4 in this series .....

Sunday, 8 August 2010

The Studio Boat #3 and Monet painting poplars on the Epte

The Studio Boat (1875) by Claude Monet
oil on canvas / private collection

Claude Monet made a number of paintings of his studio boat.  This is the second painting - with one more to come.  In 1875 Monet was painting on the River Seine near Argenteuil.

I used to spend ages trying to work out how Monet painted some of his paintings - until I went to see the Manet to Picasso exhibition at the National Gallery in 2007, got the audio guide and heard how his habit was to use a studio boat on the River Epte - which is how I got interested in paintings of his studio boat.  (Click the link to see the location of the River Epte near Monet's house at Giverny)

Below is a sketch I did (see Sketching at the National Gallery: "Manet to Picasso") plus an extract from what I noted at the time.

Copies of National Gallery paintings from Claud Monet's "Poplars on the Epte" series
oil on canvas
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
I started with two of my favourite paintings from Monet's Poplars on the Epte series. This time I got the audio guide and learned that:
  • there are 24 paintings in the series depicting the poplars at different times of the day and in different weath
  • Monet painted them from a flat bottomed boat borrowed from his friend Caillebotte which had been specially adapted so that it could take canvases of different sizes. ( The painting from a boat habit reminded me of John Singer Sargent who used to sketch in Venice while sat in a gondola - I'm beginning to think about devising a boating expedition!)
  • He had to buy the land that the poplars stood on to avoid them being cut down before he had completed the series!
The one on the left does not compare well to the original due to lack of the right colours in my tiny pencil case. The one on the right worked rather better - but I could have done with my big sketchbook!

Given the dates of the paintings I'm guessing Monet's habit of using a studio boat must have started much earlier when he first started living next to rivers.

For earlier posts about Monet and studio boats see:
For more about Monet see Claude Monet - Resources for Art Lovers